Composer and innovator Dan Trueman tinkers with gadgets new and old in search of novel musical sounds. As a faculty member of Princeton University, Trueman directs the school’s Laptop Orchestra. He is also a master of the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle, which often plays a prominent role in his compositions. A recording of Trueman’s work “neither Anvil nor Pulley” – a collaboration with Brooklyn-based ensemble So Percussion – was released on May 28, 2013. “neither Anvil nor Pulley” features several of Trueman’s unique instrumental creations, including drones powered by speaker drivers and audio samples controlled by repurposed golf video game controllers.
In neither Anvil nor Pulley, you utilize a wide variety of instruments, ranging from wood blocks and bass drums to turntables and drum machines. Your music criss-crosses the boundaries between acoustic and electronic sound. Tell me more about your compositional process and how you envision these complex soundscapes. What influences you in the creative process?
I have a studio full of good stuff, like fiddles, drums, laptops, gaming interfaces, and custom things I’ve built, and I spend a lot of time using all of them in various ways as I wrestle with trying to create new situations for making music (in other words, composing new pieces!). For me, composing is one of the most difficult and engaging things on the face of the planet to do, and I find that I’m usually most successful when I’m really not quite sure what I’m doing, or what the final piece is that I’m after. So, rather than imagining a target soundscape or composition, I mostly think about what people will be doing when they actual play the music I’m creating. In the case of So Percussion, I really wanted to create instruments and music that challenged their musicianship but were also inspiring to play, getting them to musical places they’ve never been before. This meant that while composing I spent a lot of time building instruments, trying them out, seeing which ones inspire, and then trying to find good notes and rhythms to compose for and with them. With neither Anvil nor Pulley, I knew I was getting somewhere when I found myself getting lost for several days playing with one particular digital instrument – the “synchronic metronome” used in the second movement – while finding seemingly endless possibilities.
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Posted by Thomas Deneuville »
In preparation of the New York premiere of Michael Gordon’s Timber at the BAM Fisher, on December 13, 14, and 15, 2012, Mantra Percussion let us be present during one of the rehearsals and kindly answered our questions about the instruments they built and the piece itself.
For more information, visit: http://www.mantrapercussion.org and http://www.bam.org/timber.
Purcharse a recording of “Timber” by Slagwerk den Haag on Cantaloupe: http://goo.gl/Pnr5e.
Embedding is cool. Crediting is really cool.
Video + Editing: Thomas Deneuville
Opening animation: Daniel Thompson at DTWebart (http://www.dtwebart.com)
Posted by Thomas Deneuville »
Yesterday night, So Percussion was having a release party for Steven Mackey’s It Is Time (Cantaloupe).
Hosted by AIR (Art International Radio) in lower Manhattan’s historic Clocktower Gallery (how à propos), the show was actually taking place right beneath the clock, in an intimate space featuring a curvy steel and Plexiglas structure. The room was quite packed when the clock stroke 7 and the concert began.
It Is Time is a quadruple percussion concerto written by Steven Mackey, one of the most badass living composers out there. The concerto is divided in 5 movements: Metronome, Steel Drums, Marimba, Drums, and Epilogue, for a total duration of about 40 minutes.
The first movement started with an analog metronome ticking, soon echoed by imitative syncopated rhythms on temple blocks. The high pitched wooden ticks filled the space with a rare sense of urgency as a micro gamelan of small bells entered. The syncopation got wilder and wilder, slowly blurring the pull of the metronome that ended up disappearing. The rigid textural space created in the first movement was followed by a more resonant and metallic one, centered on the steel drums.
Josh Quillen on steel drums
The subjective perception of time really got altered by these lush, free passages on the steel drum and—as if the contrast was not strong enough—the introduction of a microtonal steel drum finished to liquefy the notion of time (the projected video by Mark DeChiazza was then showing drops of white liquid slowly dripping in a white tank). The metronomic pulse reappeared as a Newton’s cradle, but this time it was more perceived as an echo, a consequence, than really a guiding force.
The marimba (played by Adam Sliwinski) entered, for the third movement, and shaped some beautiful echoing waves. The echo was not due to the space itself but written in the score, and one might think that the composer wanted to focus more on the audience’s awareness of the auditory space. From time to space. Seamlessly, the drums emerged and Jason Treuting delivered an incredible fourth movement that was free, controlled, and sometimes outlining a melody on the crotales in the middle of a break. I personally felt that the movement culminated in a sick drums/cowbell duet that would’ve taken Bruce Dickinson’s fever away. From space to time?
Steven Mackey, Jason Treuting and Josh Quillen chilling after the concert
Overall, the piece offers some quiet, introspective, very suggestive moments and infectious grooves flirting with jazz, rock or, as Mackey’s bio states:
vernacular music from a culture that doesn’t actually exist.
The CD comes with a full DVD by Mark DeChiazza which goes beyond a simple video recording of the performance, and adds a layer of interpretation to this already rich piece. Here’s a trailer:
Do you have a favorite Mackey piece? Or a So Percussion album? Please, feel free to post a comment or find us on Twitter: @icareifulisten